SAG-AFTRA to talk contracts Feb. 14

Current commercials deal expires March 31

SAG-AFTRA and the ad industry have a Valentine’s Day date.

Reps of the performers union and the industry will start meeting in New York on Feb. 14 — seven weeks before the March 31 expiration of the current deal.

The union and the industry are in the final four months of a one-year extension to the three-year deal reached in 2009. SAG and AFTRA sought and received the extension in mid-2011 in order to focus their efforts on a merger, which was approved by union members on March 30.

Key gains in the current commercials contract included a payment structure for work made for and moved over to the Internet and other new-media platforms, and maintaining the method of pay-per-play payment for ads run on network (also known as the “Class A” payment structure). That contract also called for the unions and producers to commission a two-year pilot study by a consultant to test a revamp of compensation based on ratings rather than the current pay-per-play model.

The contract talks had originally been slated to start in October but the union agreed in mid-summer to pursue a project to address some the “data challenges” from the test of the revamped compensation model, also known as the Gross Ratings Point Pilot Project.

The 2009 deal represented a $36 million pay hike over three years, including $21 million more in pension and health contributions. It held down annual salary gains to about 2% and included a first-ever cap on employer contributions to pension and health. The ad industry initially demanded an annual $250,000 cap on earnings per performer per contract for pension and health contributions and the sides settled on an annual $1 million cap on earnings starting in 2012.

SAG-AFTRA co-president Roberta Reardon heads the negotiating committee, which conducted a series of “wages and working conditions” meetings to solicit recommendations from members.

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